2017 Legislative Updates

Watch this space for a comprehensive review of the 2017 session.


DAR Public Policy Update


May 31, 2017

SB 50:  DelTech Property Tax:  Synopsis:  Delaware’s Community College System, operated by Delaware Technical and Community College (“the College”), plays a critical role in the State’s economy by providing workforce development and transfer education that connects Delawareans with good paying jobs within the State and region. This Act gives the College’s Board of Trustees the authority to issue bonds to finance the cost of major and minor capital improvements, deferred maintenance, and the acquisition of related equipment and educational technology and establishes the Community College Infrastructure Fund (“the Fund”) to pay the principal and interest on such bonds. This Act adopts the county Vo-Tech structure to finance the Fund by authorizing the College’s Board of Trustees to collect a local property tax, subject to a cap. All money raised in a county must be placed in a segregated account and spent exclusively on projects in that county; this eliminates any possibility of applying this Act in an unconstitutional manner. This Act also makes technical corrections to conform existing law to the standards of the Delaware Legislative Drafting Manual.

DAR Public Policy Committee recommended to oppose.

HB 144:  DelDOT Property Rights: Synopsis:  This bill serves to better define and limit what real property rights the Department of Transportation may acquire. It also corrects a technical error that if left unchanged, will jeopardize the use of federal funds on transportation projects due to non-conformance with the National Environmental Policy Act and federal highway regulations.

DAR Public Policy Committee recommended to oppose as written.

HB 190:  Coastal Zone Act:  Synopsis:  This Act, which shall be known as the Coastal Zone Conversion Permit Act, makes changes to the Coastal Zone Act (“CZA”), which has not been significantly updated since its enactment almost a half century ago. The CZA, enacted in 1971, has enabled Delaware to preserve and protect our coastline, one of Delaware’s greatest natural resources. However, the CZA has also allowed property that has been in use by heavy industry for nearly 50 years, most suitable for similar industrial uses, to go unused unless the owner is willing to engage in the same heavy industry use or to use the property for manufacturing. This Act establishes a procedure to allow for the responsible, productive reuse of the 14 existing sites of heavy industry use within the coastal zone. Specifically, this Act provides that the Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (“Secretary”) may issue a conversion permit entitling the owner, operator, or prospective purchaser of an existing heavy industry use site operate an alternative or additional heavy industry use at a heavy industry use site …

DAR Public Policy Committee recommended to support.

SB 60:  Civil Forfeiture:  Synopsis: Civil forfeiture laws represent one of the most serious assaults on private property rights in the nation today. Under civil forfeiture, police and prosecutors can seize your car or other property, sell it and use the proceeds to fund agency budgets often without so much as charging you with a crime. This Act protects individual liberty and property rights by standardizing forfeitures across all crimes, simplifying procedures, and addressing counterproductive incentives in the law that distort policing priorities. Importantly, this Act does not change the authority of law enforcement to seize property suspected of being associated with crime or limit in any way prosecutor’s ability to charge and prosecute suspected criminals. Moreover, it ensures that those individuals proven guilty of a crime do not keep the fruits of their crime. In doing so, it strikes the right balance between the individual property rights and public safety.

 DAR Public Policy Committee recommended to support.

SB 52Attorney Mortgages:  Synopsis:  This Act will allow a retired Delaware attorney to satisfy a mortgage that the attorney paid off while in practice. Currently only attorneys still in active practice are permitted to satisfy mortgages under Section 2120. This limitation can leave no practicable way to satisfy a mortgage for which the lender fails to record a satisfaction as required by State law if the attorney who paid off the mortgage subsequently retires. This Act will also expand the scope of Section 2120 to include partial releases of a mortgage where a Delaware attorney made a partial payment to release a portion of the mortgaged property.  

DAR Public Policy Committee recommended to support.

SB 74:  Farmland Preservation:  Synopsis:  This Act fulfills recommendations made by the Joint Legislative Oversight and Sunset Committee. First, this Act adds language to establish the circumstances under which Trustees of the Delaware Agricultural Lands Preservation Foundation may be removed, using language standard to boards and commissions in this State. Second, this Act limits review of a preservation easement after 25 years of the easement’s acquisition to only easements that were acquired before the enactment of this Act. Preservation easements acquired after the enactment of this Act are not subject to termination under § 917 of Title 3. Third, this Act corrects an internal reference, and makes technical corrections to conform existing law to the standards of the Delaware Legislative Drafting Manual.

 

DAR Public Policy Committee recommended to remain neutral.

SB 91:  Carbon Monoxide Monitors for Lodging:  Synopsis: This Act creates a requirement that lodging establishments with an appliance that emits carbon monoxide or an attached garage have working carbon monoxide detection devices in each dwelling or sleeping unit.

DAR Public Policy Committee recommended to support.

HB 187:  Sheriff Sales/Liens:  Synopsis:  With the implementation of land banks in the State of Delaware, an increasing number of vacant and abandoned properties will be brought to sheriff’s sales. Many of these parcels will be dilapidated and require investment to render the house habitable. Blight will only be ameliorated if the bidders upon such property acquire it intending to invest in the property, thereby improving the housing in the neighborhood and eliminating blight. If bidders at a tax lien sale have failed to pay taxes when due and have failed to maintain the condition of other real property they own in the same jurisdiction, it is not likely that they intend to invest in and improve the condition of additional property they acquire. Instead they are speculating on a turnaround in the neighborhood based upon the investment and efforts of others. Under current law, New Castle County, or any municipal government, may disapprove of the winning bid for any tax lien sheriff’s sale, at the election of the governmental entity initiating the tax lien sale, for any public purpose or reason. This bill allows any county or municipality to additionally require that bidders at such tax lien sales certify, prior to bidding, that they do not have a record of failing to maintain other real property in which they own an interest, do not have outstanding liens owed to governmental entities in excess of $1,000 at such other property, and do not hold properties that have been vacant for 18 consecutive months unless there is active construction on the property.

DAR Public Policy Committee recommended to support.


April 26, 2017

HB 130:  Accommodations Tax:  Synopsis:  This bill makes the lodging tax apply to all hotels, motels, tourist homes, and short-term rentals. Short-term rentals are defined as being a room, dwelling, unit, or campground site being rented to overnight guests for a period of 120 days or less for any calendar year and the room or unit is not the owner’s permanent residence.

The DAR Public Policy Committee voted to oppose. 

HB 76:  Foreclosure Mediation:  Synopsis:  This Act extends the Office of Foreclosure Prevention and Automatic Residential Foreclosure Mediation Program an additional two years, from January 18, 2018 until January 18, 2020. The Office of Foreclosure Prevention and the Automatic Residential Foreclosure Mediation Program were originally scheduled to sunset on January 18, 2014, two years after their enactment. The sunset date was extended to January 18, 2018 (six years) in 2013 via 79 Del. Laws c. 27 (House Bill No. 40, as amended by Senate Amendment No. 1, 147th General Assembly).

The DAR Public Policy Committee voted to support.

HB 29:  Judgments:  Synopsis:  This bill establishes a writ of attachment of tax refunds and lottery winnings. This bill provides a procedure for interception of tax refunds and lottery winnings by the Department of Finance for judgments resulting from a breach of a residential or commercial rental agreement. This bill provides for the opportunity to contest the amount owed in regards to funds seized pursuant to a writ of attachment of tax refunds or lottery winnings. The bill directs the Department of Finance to work with the Courts to develop an electronic system relating to the collection of judgments through tax refunds and lottery winnings. The bill also directs the Courts and Department of Finance to work together and make a recommendation as to the amount of a special fee that is meant to offset the development, implementation and administration of the collection of judgments through tax refunds and lottery winnings. The Department and Finance are directed to provide a report to the General Assembly by January 10, 2018 regarding the costs of administrating this provision and an appropriate off-setting fee to be charged for issuance of the writ described herein. Sections 1 and 2 of the bill will not take effect until ongoing funds are provided to develop, implement and administer Sections 1 and 2, and until legislation is passed implementing the new fee.

The DAR Public Policy Committee voted to support.

HB 38:  Municipal Wells:  Synopsis:  This bill places the same requirements for the issuance of non-potable well permits within existing areas where a water utility has been granted a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity as those that currently apply to the issuance of a potable well permit.

The DAR Public Policy Committee voted to be neutral.

*NEW*: HB 144Synopsis:  This bill serves to better define and limit what real property rights the Department of Transportation may acquire. It also corrects a technical error that if left unchanged, will jeopardize the use of federal funds on transportation projects due to non-conformance with the National Environmental Policy Act and federal highway regulations.

Under review by DAR Legal Counsel.


DAR President Bruce Plummer and Andy Taylor, DAR Legal Counsel, recently attended a state task force meeting to address issues around the Realty Transfer Tax.  Watch the video.

 

Items in Governor Markell’s Proposed 2018 Budget that we’re watching:

  • Increase the state portion of the Real Estate Transfer Tax by 1 percent to 2.5 percent.

  • Take .25 percent from the county portion of the Real Estate Transfer Tax.

  • Eliminate itemized deductions and increase standard deduction by 50 percent.

 

 

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